Volume 21, Number 12 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 1 - 7, 2008
C.B. 1 erupts over missing ballot

By Julie Shapiro

Community Board 1’s full board meeting erupted into a battery of accusations Tuesday night over the missing ballot from last month’s board elections.

Linda Belfer, chairperson of the Nominating Committee, which ran the election, said she was fed up with the “nasty words” board members were throwing around.

“I will never again be chair of this committee,” Belfer said. “I won’t have my integrity questioned.”

John Fratta, another board member, replied that he did not question the Nominating Committee’s integrity, and he led the board in a round of applause supporting them.

The tide then turned against Marc Ameruso, who won reelection as assistant secretary last month in the race with the missing ballot. Several board members implied Ameruso absconded with the ballot, since he was the one who discovered it was missing.

Then, Ann DeFalco, a board member, accused Ameruso of harassing her for not voting for him. Ameruso replied that DeFalco had promised to vote for him, and he called her after the vote to find out why she went back on her word.

“That’s a lie,” DeFalco replied. “I was kind to you, but I didn’t commit.”

Ameruso later said he never raised his voice to DeFalco, but he felt she owed him an explanation.

The missing ballot belonged to Julie Menin, the board’s chairperson, who did admit after the election to breaking her promise to vote for Ameruso. She said it was because his campaign statement was riddled with typos.

At this week’s meeting, several board members wanted to stop candidates from calling people who did not vote for them, but others pointed out that the board cannot legislate conversations.

Anthony Notaro noted that the openness required of community board elections creates awkwardness between the volunteer board members, who often have social and professional relationships with each other. John Foss suggested posting the list of who voted for whom online, since it is a public document, rather than having rumors spread the word.

Belfer and the other Nominating Committee members suggested several concrete changes to the committee’s procedure, which would have pinpointed when the ballot went missing. Belfer would like board members to sign a sheet when they turn their ballots in. Board members already sign their ballots out. Pat Moore suggested that the ballots go to the borough president’s office after the election for safekeeping, rather than to the board’s office.

Last month’s election pitted Ameruso, the assistant secretary incumbent, against newcomer Chelsea-Lyn Rudder. Ameruso won 26-16, and the next day he noticed that Menin’s ballot was missing.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, many board members did not want to have the discussion about the missing ballot at all.

“Can we move on?” Albert Capsouto and Susan Cole called out near the beginning of the back-and-forth comments. Several other members echoed the sentiment.

On the other hand, board member Paul Sipos said the issue of the missing ballot has to be taken seriously, and someone should get the Department of Investigation involved.

Several people groaned, calling out, “It wasn’t even a close election,” but Sipos said that isn’t the point.

“Anytime a ballot goes missing, you’re violating a whole cornerstone of democracy, no matter what level,” Sipos told Downtown Express before the meeting. “It could be Florida or C.B. 1 — it’s the same thing.”

Borough President Scott Stringer, who supervises and appoints Manhattan community board members, didn’t seem too worried about the missing ballot when Downtown Express asked him about it last week. On a scale of things he’s concerned about, like parks and schools, Stringer said the missing ballot rates “a minus-one.” However, he added that if C.B. 1 members contact his office about the missing ballot, he would be willing to look into it further.

With reporting
by Josh Rogers

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